Fort Dix Contractor Finds Hope Amidst Burma Cyclone Disaster
May 9, 2008
FORT DIX, N.J. (May 9, 2008)- The world sat engrossed in horror as news of the Burma cyclone disaster started to trickle in earlier this week. The death toll seemed to rise with each passing hour and hope began to fade.
For many watching from afar, the images of destruction seemed surreal. For Mo, a native of Burma (aka Myanmar) and a contractor on Fort Dix who asked that his last name be withheld, each picture on the screen and every name added to the death toll was a potentially devastating statistic. Mo's wife, also a native of Burma, lives and works in Rangoon (aka Yangon, the largest city in Burma). He had not heard from her in days and feared the worst, having found out about the disaster in the coldest of ways: the Internet.
"He called me on Saturday and asked me to go online and look," said Peter Mckenney, a contractor who works with Mo in the same equipment maintenance shop. "He told me he was visiting a relative and they actually were surfing the internet when he found out about the cyclone. He was very shook up. He told me he was going to try to get to Burma."
"When he walked out of here yesterday, he had the feeling that his wife was gone," said Christine Correa, Mo's supervisor at work. There wasn't much hope in his face when he went home, she said.
At work on Monday morning, Mo and his co-workers discussed Mo's plan to get to Burma and hopefully to find his wife. Word quickly spread throughout the shop's employees that one of their own needed help. And help they did.
"In the span of about an eight-hour workday many people came through with a sizeable monetary collection, water purification tablets, even MREs," said Correa of the way Mo's friends at work came to his aid. She went on to explain why they had reacted so quickly.
"It's easy to see horrible things happening across the globe on television and not fully understand them," she said. "But when you actually have somebody who is caught-up in the middle of the disaster, it brings it a little closer to home and you think about it often. You want to do what you can to help."
Mo took the next day off work. As he traveled to the embassy in New York City to acquire an emergency visa, he received the first hint of good news: Surprisingly, the embassy would be able to issue him a visa that same day.
"They really helped me out at the embassy. They got me out right away. I am trying to fly out as soon as possible and everything working is out good so far," he said. "According to the embassy, the airport in Yangon is open again so I can fly right into the city, which will cut my trip about a day shorter than expected."
It was on the way home from the embassy that Mo received long-awaited word from Burma. A relative of Mo's living near the Chinese border had been able to contact other relatives in Yangon via cell phone. Mo's wife was alive. He was overjoyed.
"I got news that my wife is doing okay. I'm happy. It relieved my worry," he said, obvious joy in his voice. "The last couple of days I didn't get a connection with her and I didn't know what was happening... it had me worried."
Unable to hide his emotions, Mo expressed his gratitude for those who stepped in and helped him out.
"I am grateful to everybody who helped me at Fort Dix. Everybody tried to help out with whatever they could," he said. Everything came together in his time of need because people took action.
As he readied himself for his coming journey, Mo expressed hope that the world would come through for the people of Burma in the same way his friends had come through for him, and by so doing, perhaps restore a hint of hope to the hopeless.